The PGA TOUR Canada – providing players opportunities to develop their skills and making positive impacts for communities
Becoming a professional player in sports, whether it be in golf or in any another sport, requires tremendous commitment to practice and skill development. To play at the top level of competition is something that very few will ever experience. Research indicates that less than 0.5 % of the players in a given sport at the high school level will rise to the top level of professional competition whether it be the NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL, or other sport.
For example, NCAA research estimates that 0.40% of baseball players will make it to the major leagues, despite baseball being the most developed of the professional leagues in North America. (1)
That means out of every 100 players, less than 1 makes it into the major leagues or only 4 out of every 1,000 players. The other professional sports all fall below the level of baseball in terms of playing opportunities and number of players making it to the top tiers of their professional sports. Unfortunately, there are no readily accessible studies of golf and playing on either the PGA/DP World Tour or the LPGA, but there is nothing to suggest that the results would vary greatly.
However, there has been discussion in recent years about a “magical” 10,000 hours of practice required to excel in a particular field. It was perhaps best summarized by journalist Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”, where he quoted neurologist Daniel Levitin:
“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything.” (2)
Rare is the opportunity for a player to step into the top tier of golf from high school. Even Tiger Woods, the most celebrated player in the last 50 years, played amateur golf for Stanford University, while honing his craft winning 3-three consecutive U.S. Amateur Championships (1994-96) and an NCAA Division I Individual Golf Championship in 1996.
Golf is no different than any other major sport. Not all players progress and develop at the same pace. Some will go on to play at the top tiers earlier than others, while others may go on to university or perhaps play on a developmental tour or league. Players need the opportunity to play competitively against appropriate competitors to develop their skills with an eye to moving on to the top levels of golf. For professional sports teams, there are the minor leagues — leagues like Triple A (“AAA”) baseball, the American Hockey League for the NHL, or the Under-23 leagues in European football. In golf, that is where the developmental tours come in.
The first formal developmental tour in professional golf was the Ben Hogan Tour which started in 1990 and was sponsored by the Ben Hogan Golf Company . Since then, it has evolved into today’s Korn Ferry Tour. If one was to look at baseball’s minor league system for comparative purposes, the Korn Ferry Tour would be considered a AAA League, the first step below the PGA Tour.
The PGA TOUR Canada is another developmental tour and an important one at that, often helping players bridge their amateur golf career from university to professional golf. To borrow the baseball analogy, the PGA Tour Canada would be considered a “AA” league, with players graduating from the tour to play on the Korn Ferry Tour or the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour Canada plays this important role in a few ways. Firstly, in terms of player development, the tour schedule begins in June, like all the northerly states in the U.S., golf season peaks in June and July and with most university players graduating in April/May, it fills an important gap in playing schedules. This means that as a player finishes their amateur career in university, they can look to joining the tour in Canada which runs from June through to September. That sets the players up nicely for a full 3 months of steady, competitive golf, mimicking the PGA tour with its travel stops, Pro-Am’s, media duties, and more.
As the Canadian season ends, the players are then in a position to focus on qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour (the KFT). From there, the players earn their way on to the PGA Tour with their play. Finish in the Top – 25 of the season long standings on the KFT, then a player earns a “Tour Card” for the PGA, moving on to the PGA Tour in the following season.
Secondly, another facet that makes Canada such a desirable option for players is the cultural familiarity. Many of the players that play on the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA Tour hold American passports having grown up in the United States with English as their natural language. So, when it come time to consider a developmental tour to play on, Canada is a natural choice as English is one of two official languages (the other being French), and the dominant language outside of Quebec and New Brunswick. That makes it easier for players to communicate with tour organizers and officials, tour volunteers, hotel staff, airport personnel, restaurants, and grocery store clerks, and more.
These sentiments were shared by Dawson Armstrong, a former PGA Tour Canada member who had graduated on to the Korn Ferry Tour. Armstrong was raised in Georgia before graduating from university in May 2018. Upon graduation from Lipscomb University in Tennessee, he attended the Q-School for the PGA Tour Canada and started playing later that June.
“I think the Latin American tour is a great secondary option .But I think the Mackenzie tour (PGA Tour Canada) is and should be the primary option when it comes to quality of play, when it comes to the quality of courses, when it comes to the language barrier, and when it comes to financial (prize money) that Canada can bring. I think Canada sets you up the best for the Korn Ferry tour. PGA Tour Canada does set you up the best for understanding what it's like to go week to week, similarly to that of the Korn Ferry tour.”
"We have two main goals, one is to provide opportunities for players. The second is to make an impact in the communities where we play."
The Executive Director of the PGA Tour Canada, Scott Pritchard echoed Armstrong’s thoughts, noting that their philosophy behind the developmental tour is to provide playing conditions that mimic the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA Tour in terms of the schedule and course conditions.
“On our tour in terms of setup, it’s the exact same that you’ll see on the Korn Ferry Tour and on the PGA Tour. We actually state that in our regulations with the players, so they know that our whole goal is to provide a PGA Tour-like experience. As part of the process to help develop these players you want to set up a course that is going to be similar to when they get to the next level. You want to give then best chance at succeeding.”
Developing Players Not the Only Goal
In addition to developing players for their professional golf careers, the PGA Tour Canada has another major goal and that is through its impact on the communities in which it plays. Specifically, there are three areas or spheres of influence in which the tour focuses its goodwill – Charitable, Economic, and Social. The charitable element can be enormous. In 2020, the PGA Tour reported that it had provided over $3.0 Billion in charitable giving since 1938 when it made its first charitable contribution at the Palm Beach Invitational. They also announced at the time that their largest charitable contribution for a single year was achieved in 2019, raising over $204 million for the calendar year. The charitable amounts include those from the PGA Tour, the Korn Ferry Tour, the PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latinoamérica, and the PGA Tour China Series.
As for the PGA Tour Canada, it is estimated that the total amount of charitable giving has been approximately $6.0 million during the lifetime of the PGA Tour Canada. They have a goal to surpass $10.0 million in the next few years as the tour looks to grow its schedule to 13 – events while bringing additional sponsors on board. Executive Director of the PGA Tour Canada, Scott Pritchard, shared the vision for the tour as it embarks on its first full season since 2019.
“We have two main goals, one is to provide opportunities for players. The second is to make an impact in the communities where we play. And that comes in 3 – three different forms. One is through our charitable impact, the second through our economic impact that our events bring to the communities in terms of economic activity. And then the third, is the social impact – social impact being events that people come out to or gravitate too because of the positive elements that we bring to the community.”
Part of the responsibility of local tour organizers – the group that coordinates the tournaments in each community, is to work with the PGA Tour Canada to identify local charities with whom partnerships can be developed. The local charity then becomes the vehicle for receiving the donation.
For the kickoff event this week in Victoria, British Columbia, the local charity will be the Salvation Army, charitable organization with its origins in the United Kingdom. Having been founded in 1865 in London, the Salvation Army has been long known for its charitable works through services such as food programs and relief efforts to its well known thrift stores and charity shops. The Salvation Army has a long association with the city, having been active in Victoria since 1897.
For 2022, the PGA Tour Canada will play 11-eleven events, starting in Victoria and culminating in the Fortinet Cup Championship on September 15 – 18th in Kitchener, Ontario. Click here for the 2022 PGA Tour Canada Schedule.
Click for more information:
National Collegiate Athlestics Association (2010 April 20). Estimated probability of competing in athletics beyond the high school interscholastic level. In Price, retrieved on May 27, 2022. http://www.thesportdigest.com/archive/article/what-are-odds-becoming-professional-athlete
Gladwell, Malcolm Outliers: The Story of Success, New York: Little Brown and Company, 2010 p.40
Gladwell, Malcolm, Outliers: The Story of Success, New York: Little Brown and Company, 2010
Price, William J. -- What Are the Odds of Becoming a Professional Athlete? The Sport Digest (United States Sports Academy), 2010 ISSN 1558-6448 retrived on May 27, 2022 http://www.thesportdigest.com/archive/article/what-are-odds-becoming-professional-athlete
Probability of Competing Beyond High School, NCAA retrieved on May 27, 2022, https://www.ncaa.org/sports/2013/12/17/probability-of-competing-beyond-high-school.aspx